Top 5 Political Figures of 2011 in Desperate Need of Good PR

A diamond necklace goes with every outfit, but being able to pull off a garland made entirely of Rs.1,000 notes requires some serious fashion prowess.

Mayawati has constantly been in the news for her sweeping statements against the Congress, her bold and utter disregard for anything that borders on being ‘anti-dalit’ and her sickeningly opulent displays of wealth, power and presence, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. But the one incident that really set tongues wagging happened not too long ago – the unveiling of a Rs 684-crore park at Noida to supposedly commemorate dalit icons. Built across 82 acres of prime property, just off the highway, the ‘not-open-to-public’ park has over 24 elephant statues (the BSP election symbol) and numerous statues of various Dalit icons like  B R Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and of Mayawati, herself.

An extremely wasteful gesture, the park has been deemed by many as unnecessary and embarrassing, in the wake of a recession and the burgeoning need for basic health and education, within the State.

George Bush has had his fare share of problems and footwear thrown at him; and if there’s one thing everybody’s learnt from his two consecutive terms in the White House, it’s to find humour in people’s stupidity. Here are some rather hilarious moments:

  • “First of all, I don’t see America having problems.” –George W. Bush, interview with Bob Costas at the 2008 Olympics, Beijing, China, Aug. 10, 2008
  • In terms of the economy, look, I inherited a recession, I am ending on a recession.” –George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2009
  • “Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter.” –George W. Bush, in parting words to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at his final G-8 Summit, punching the air and grinning widely as the two leaders looked on in shock, Rusutsu, Japan, July 10, 2008
  • “I’m telling you there’s an enemy that would like to attack America, Americans, again. There just is. That’s the reality of the world. And I wish him all the very best.” –George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2009
  • “And they have no disregard for human life.” –George W. Bush, on the brutality of Afghan fighters, Washington, D.C., July 15, 2008
  • “I want to share with you an interesting program — for two reasons, one, it’s interesting, and two, my wife thought of it — or has actually been involved with it; she didn’t think of it. But she thought of it for this speech.” –George W. Bush, discussing a company that improves access to clean water in Africa, Washington D.C., Oct. 21, 2008 
  • “This is my maiden voyage. My first speech since I was the president of the United States and I couldn’t think of a better place to give it than Calgary, Canada.” –George W. Bush, as reported by the Associated Press, Calgary, Canada, March 17, 2009
  • “I miss being pampered.” –George W. Bush, reflecting on his presidency, University of Texas at Tyler, Oct. 19, 2010

A genuine gaffe or a risky PR stunt? Varun Gandhi’s anti-Muslim slur was a gamble that ultimately paid off in publicity, but at the offset, ironically had many people ‘raising a finger’ at him. According to video footage of an event that happened sometime ago, the Gandhi scion told voters in Uttar Pradesh, where he is a candidate for the nationalist BJP – “If someone thinks Hindus are weak or leaderless, if anyone raises a finger towards Hindus, then I swear on Gita that I will cut that hand.” He also allegedly compared a Muslim politician to Osama Bin Laden.

In a township, already plagued with Hindu-Muslim riots, so escalated had the situation become, that his own party had to distance themselves from him, with one BJP colleague saying that the comments did not ‘’reflect the BJP’s traditional culture in any manner’’.

As any experienced PR analyst would tell you – popularity through controversy is always a very big gamble, one that can best be avoided. Especially, when it involves a leadership role.

Just months after Indian tourists in Arunachal Pradesh were harassed by Chinese officials, for not having a ‘Chinese visa’ on them, the Chinese ambassador to India recently told a journalist in New Delhi to “shut up”. The heated exchange was over a map in a Chinese brochure about an investment in India, and showed the Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of China.

“We are working for friendlier ties with India… this will not help,” said the rather astute Ambassador Zhang Yang, after his flash of temper.

It’s not easy dealing with a persistent journalist in a foreign country, but when you reach the ranks of diplomatic emissary, you’d best come up with some far more tactful and polite ways of ending a discussion. Basic PR 101 – never loose your cool with a member of the press.

Spot the odd one out – Russell Peters, Vir Das and Silvio Berlusconi. If you said Vir Das, you’d be right. The other two are actual comedians. Jokes aside, when you’re Prime Minister of a country there’s a certain amount of seriousness involved. Offensive statements about gender and nationality, much to Mr. Berlusconi’s surprise, can’t simply be chalked up to topical humour; and quite often create a very negative image. Here are a few quips by the Italian Prime Minister, who summarized each disastrous statement by referring to it as a joke and blaming the media for not having a sense of humour. Funny or not, you decide.

  • Two days after Italy’s biggest earthquake in thirty years made 17,000 people homeless, Mr Berlusconi told German N-TV: “Of course their current lodgings are a bit temporary but they should see it like a weekend of camping.”
  • In 2009, Mr Berlusconi is said to have embarrassed his country during an official G20 photo shoot in London, after yelling a greeting at US President Barack Obama so loudly that he was immediately reprimanded by the Queen. “What is it?” she bristled, “why does he have to shout so loud?”
  • Mr Berlusconi once caused outrage by saying that although he was considering deploying 30,000 troops to Italy’s cities, there would never be enough soldiers to protect Italy’s many “beautiful girls” from rape.
  • It was a throwback to many years ago when he advised investors in New York to relocate to Italy because “Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries… superb girls.”
  • In 2007, he caused a political row at the start of Italy’s EU presidency he told German MEP, Martin Schulz, “I know that in Italy there is a man producing a film on Nazi concentration camps – I shall put you forward for the role of Kapo (a guard chosen from among the prisoners) – you would be perfect.”
  • During a group photo of EU leaders in 2002 he made the Italian horned “cuckold” gesture with his hand behind the head of the Spanish foreign minister, suggesting he was being cuckolded. Mr Berlusconi said he was “just joking” and was trying to amuse a group of boy scouts who were nearby, but the gesture was felt to be out of place at an international summit.

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